After a lengthy discussion, Mission CISD’s board of trustees voted against renewing the school district’s contract with Carlisle Insurance for their consulting services. The decision to go out for bids for an insurance consultant came down to a 5-2 vote, with Jerry Zamora and Iris Iglesias dissenting. The trustees that voted in favor of the motion maintain that casting a wider net is in the best interest of the district.
“We do need to see what’s out there,” trustee Petra Ramirez said. “Everybody wants transparency and this is part of the transparency. If we’re going to go out, it’s advantageous for us and for the scope of what we’re doing — saving money.”
Although the trustees and administration consistently work toward minimizing expenditures, they became even more diligent after the district’s health insurance fund took a plunge.
Since 2021, Mission CISD administrators have been working to curb a deficit in the self-funded health insurance fund. Although it fluctuates, the deficiency has mostly hovered around $1 million — an effect of the pandemic and high-cost claimants. But with trustee approval, the administration implemented several cost-saving strategies to bring the fund back to black — most recently, changing the plan design and increasing contributions.
However, at the Sept. 21 special board meeting, administrators said they believed most of their cost-saving strategies came from in-house, not Carlisle Insurance. But administrators also acknowledged that the consultant’s contract for MCISD’s compensation and benefits programs did not specify the need for hard-saving measures. As a result, Mission CISD aims to adjust the scope of the contract for the next consultant, admitting that their needs changed since 2021 — the last time the district entered into a contract with Carlisle Insurance.
“Our goal is to provide the most savings in everything that we purchase or procure because that money saved is money that goes back into student programs and for our staff,” Assistant Superintendent for Finance Joel Garcia said. “So with that said, if we’re able to change the scope of what we’re asking them to do to include more cost-savings, more analysis, that may be more advantageous to the school district. Because some of the feedback that I did get when I was working with Carlisle was, ‘Hey, we’re here to help you with the [request for proposal] process, not necessarily strategic planning or cost-savings.’”
The $45,000 Carlisle Insurance contract ends Oct. 20, but the trustees said the agency could re-enter the bidding process and receive the contract again if they are the best choice. Administration said they would honor the board selection no matter what.
“At the end of the day, what we want to do is what’s best for the district and make sure that we save money for the district,” trustee Juan Gonzalez said.
Dissenting voter Jerry Zamora said he felt Carlisle Insurance had not been given a fair chance.
Chase Carlisle, the vice president of the Corpus Christi-based insurance company, responded to Mission CISD not renewing the contract.
“For nearly 100 years, Carlisle Insurance has proudly provided insurance services to South Texas. At the core of our success has been providing the highest level of customer service, thus, we are disheartened to hear of the dissatisfaction of our employee benefit consulting services provided to Mission CISD,” he said. “Carlisle Insurance has been a proud partner of the district for over 15 years on their property and casualty insurance and employee benefits consulting. We are still committed to the district and will continue to help them in any way we can to achieve the results required to further the education of the children of MCISD.”
Additionally, the board and administration discussed another hot topic — the insurance agent that serves the district. Former board member and insurance agent Raymond Longoria has made several public comments on the matter, claiming certain brokers are being discriminated against because, up until this year, two agents served the district instead of one.
Carlisle Insurance Consultant Valeria Ybarra explained the situation at the Aug. 2 meeting. She clarified that MCISD can have up to two agents according to the request for proposal, but they do not have to use two.
At the Sept. 21 meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Support Services Lorena Garcia also stated that the district does not have control over the representative the insurance carrier selects.
“[The agent is] just something that comes through the bids and we accept what the vendors are presenting and then that’s what’s presented to you all,” Garcia said to the board. “That’s not a cost-saving solution for us. That would not have given us any advantage because the agent gets paid by the carrier, they don’t get paid by the district. Their contract is with Blue Cross, not with us. So it wouldn’t have done us any good to have gone out for bids for [agents] because that wouldn’t have improved the financial situation that we’re in with the health fund.”
A few board members also addressed claims that the trustees have made decisions based on personal benefits, and they wanted to clear the air.
“We’re being criticized on social media and that is very unfair to us because I believe we’re all being transparent, we’re doing what’s in the best interest of the district and that’s how we’re going to vote,” Veronica “Betty” Mendoza said. “So I think that we have to clear this right now so that the community knows and just doesn’t go into discussion about how we’re making these plans or what we’re doing, getting a cut, I don’t know what. We’re not; I know I’m not.”
Trustee Petra Ramirez also spoke passionately on the same topic.
“People that are not even here, they figure and they assume that we’re getting this and we’re getting that. Well let me tell you, I, Petra Ramirez, don’t get a penny from anything,” she said. “And I always, I always try to do what’s best for Mission CISD. And this, right now, I feel that it is time to change and [go out] for RFPs, and that’s what we need.”